The Liverpool duo of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah often team up to hurt opponents in the United Kingdom and Europe.
But on Sunday, the two attackers go head to head hoping to inspire their respective nations to Africa Cup of Nations triumph.
Both teams will be eager to taste glory. Senegal have reached the final twice but never won the tournament.
Head coach Aliou Cisse was in charge in 2019 and played in the 2002 final defeat to Cameroon, missing a penalty in the shoot-out.
On the other hand, seven-time winners Egypt are the most successful nation in AFCON history, yet they have not lifted the coveted trophy since 2010.
The Pharaohs missed out on the continent’s hallowed trophy in 2017 when they were beaten late on by Cameroon in the final.
Senegal has negotiated their path rather seamlessly, while Egypt had a jittery campaign from the onset.
However, both have reached the expected stage, true to their specific and individual pedigree. The FARPost Technical Study Group [TSG] previews this final with succinct projections from all technical and tactical perspectives.
1. Egypt’s technical bench
Egypt’s technical bench is a hot seat that burns relentlessly. Hence, following a catastrophic loss to South Africa at the last Afcon edition, the Egyptian Football Association [EFA] fired the technical leadership. With the next Afcon qualifiers juxtaposed with the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualification, the EFA opted for a more experienced Carlos Queiroz.
In the Portuguese mentor, EFA has a wily-battle-scared football soldier. Queiroz has mastered his trade with various spells at Manchester United and Real Madrid. He has adopted a cagey but persistent mixed counterattack play in this tournament. This approach has seen tactical flexibility to apply a 1-3-4-4 and 1-4-3-3 courageously. Wins against Morocco and Cameroon summarise a tactical style built on resilience and a fast-paced attack when needed.
2. Senegal technical bench
‘The Lions of Teranga’ deserve to play in the last match of the competition. The free-flowing, energetic and flawless approach has dominated their DNA. Sprinkled and blessed with talented stars, Senegal is a true African force.
Much credit must be reserved for the Senegalese FA to support Alois Cisse and his technical entourage. After a painful loss in the final against Algeria, Cisse quietly went about with his business. A fortified 1-4-2-3-1 attacking system has been refined. Solid runs and distinct inter-passing mechanisms describe this Senegal outfit. In defence, calmness, understanding, and teamwork have been the cornerstone of their resistance.
3. Salah’s influence
The individual contribution of big players is a reality in football. South African football maestro Doctor Khumalo agrees that the individual input of talented players is a must. The 1996 Afcon winner was once an important individual performer for both club and country, and understand the role played by such players.
In Salah, the Pharaohs possess a dynamic individual effective in attack. Salah scores goals for fun, which has been seen at parent club, Liverpool. However, in this tournament, his ability to create goal-scoring chances for others has been impressive.
4. Magical Mane
The road to success is never an easy one. Mane, who captains the West Africans, epitomises the pinnacle of struggle and perseverance. His road has taken him to France, Austria and England, where he stars for Liverpool FC.
Mane has been phenomenal in the attacking third. His goals and assists tally confirm his class among his peers. His slick movements, pseudo-wide tactical application and finishing impetus, support the magical talent at his disposal.
5. Comparative Analysis: Salah v Mane
In terms of the overall individual contribution in attack [goals, shots and assists], Mane has a better and higher percentage than his Liverpool teammate.
6. TSG points to the Lions
The 2019 Afcon final loss to Algeria is still fresh in the minds of the Lions. It was a bitter pill to swallow and a harrowing pain to the entire nation. But this generation of Senegalese stars has dusted themselves superbly to reach this far.
As for the Egyptians, they have ridden their luck and pushed the tide. They are well supported by a rich history of success and utter belief in their abilities. Yet, on Sunday, the TSG believes it’s the Lions’ title to lose this time around. The Lions have played scintillating football, stayed true to their technical approach and scored goals to claim their stake in this final, and only Egypt stands in their marauding journey.